Unemployment in Ireland

I did a video session on Irishdebate.com yesterday on unemployment. It is available here A blogpost with various links to material discussed during the session is here The session went through: the extent of unemployment in Ireland; consequences of long-run unemployment; current government responses; and potential responses.

The format is an interesting one and worth thinking about for others here as it gives more time to work through topics than is usually possible on television and radio. Joe Garde on Irishdebate.com sets them up. Ronan Lyons, Stephen Kinsella and others have done sessions on it so far.

66 replies on “Unemployment in Ireland”

The consequences of long term unemployment in Ireland is that the generation that wrecked the country will get to live on their overpaid pensions for the next decade until they finally keel over from some disease of opulence or the other. Meanwhile, the generations below (and some above) them will continue to bare the brunt of unemployment and wage cuts.

And all to keep the swinging children of the ’60s, the disco hedonists of the ’70s, the greedy yuppies of the ’80s, the neurotic mid-life blow-outs of the ’90s, and the mad asset gamblers of the ’00s in the style to which they have become accustomed. You think I care if bank wind downs affect your pension pots? I think the 0.6% pension levy was far too lenient.

Why do I bother. The government and every other grey haired technocrat has already chosen their bonuses and pension plans over the good of the people and the nation. It’s not like posting comments on an internet blog is going to change their minds. If I want to influence the opinions of government, I should write for a wine magazine.

Watched the video – good content but not sure about the style (not personal).
There’s something off about videos of people talking to computers. You need another person there. If they could be done as interviews itd be great but know that’s really hard technically.
Regarding unemployment the apathy is the kicker. Will be interesting to see the no. of posts here. Do we underestimate the stigma of it?

Great format, Liam, and well done for bringing this issue to wider attention.
Nár laga Dia thú.

@eureka I agree with you on the style issue. Some of the other ones were better on this front.
I think this general format is the next step for how economic issues can be meaningfully debated but clearly needs tweaking.

@ Seafoid
Great photos.
Thats the human face. The lost, haunted aimless look of anger and despair. I still don’t understand why the 14.4% aren’t on the streets. Is it shame? Shouldn’t be but maybe it is

@Liam Delaney

Well done for having the courage in trying to keep this issue on the agenda.

Having been unemployed myself, I am fully aware of what you refer to a the ‘scarring effect’ of unemployment. An effect not readily obvious to the person themselves at the time.
In relation to why people, particularly those in long term unemployment, do not continue to look for employment, the answer is simple and obvious. It is absolutely necessary for the preservation of self confidence to avoid continuous rejection. This is as true for a 45 year old unemployed man as it is for 6 year old child.
In the case of unemployment, the rejection can often be, to paraphrase Thomas Hobbes, ‘nasty, brutish and short’, so it is best to avoid it.

You are equally correct that current government policies are no more than paying lip service to the problem of unemployment. In fact it is worse than that. Money has been stolen from the unemployed. Let me explain.

We had a 500million special jobs initiative, based on 500 million that will be collected each year for four years.
That 500million could employ 50,000 people on 25,000 per annum (assuming a saving of 15,000 per person as they are taken off social welfare).
Do we have 50,000 less on the live register since June. No.
The money is being used to shore up those already in employment. We have a few token schemes to give the ministers some soundbites. Little more than that.

There are work programs that would not interfere with the existing labour market that could be used to create large scale employemnt projects.

1. Finishing all semi-finished housing estates with three years. I would not often agree with another poster on this site [@jto], but he is absolutely correct in his idea of bring the building industry back to a normal GDP % at a planned and measured pace.
2. Concentrated Coillte replanting scheme over the next three planting seasons. Many people are not aware that Coillte are clear felling but not replanting to save costs and make their managers look better. This has been going on for two years now. Many Coillte workers that traditionally got seasonal employment got very little or no work in the last two years.
3. Using the ESB and their funds (of which they have plenty) to get a broadband infrastructure in the country within three years.

[On a technical point, your video lecture needs to be recorded in normal lecture setting with board, allowing you freedom of movement etc.]

Keep up the good work.


re If I want to influence the opinions of government, I should write for a wine magazine.

Government policy must now be apparant to the young generation. It is a policy that does not include them. You are correct in divining that it is a straightforward choice between keeping up (and topping up in some cases) the income and pensions of those employed, while so called ‘job experience employees’ and graduate trainees keep the wheels moving.

Mr James Hamilton, the retiring DPP on a fine lump sum and pension stipend, admitted on the Marian Finucane show that the pension changes influenced his decision to retire at this time. But he hoped to keep his ‘hand’ in by doing various bit and pieces. Indeed!

That is the way it is. Young people should take full notice.
This is a morally corrupt state. You, nor any of the younger generation, should give your loyalty or your lives to it.

@Shaun Byrne,

It may reflect differences in the amount of time elapsed since posting, but it may also reflect the possibility that it may be easier to secure an improvement in the usage of the English language using a blog than it is encourage a beneficial change in Government policy in any specific area.

Governments will change tack or introduce useful initiatives only when there is a threat of a backbench revolt, or when there is widespread media and public opposition (or ridicule or both) to a proposal, or when the people have used an election – Presidential, local, Euro, by-election or referendum – to convey some usually ill-defined message, but which is not welcomed by the Government.

All the blather in the world on the blogosphere or anywhere else won’t make a blind bit of difference.

@SB: “71 comments on pleonasms and 9 on unemployment!”

Makes sense. Commenting – in a constructive manner, about un-employments is not easy. The matter is so fraught with bureaucratic, social and political briars and barbs, you’d be lucky not to end up in the ER!

There are about 20,000 manual type jobs available right now. But the gap between where the jobs are, ruralish, and where the non-employed folk are, urbanish is unbridgable. That’s a KO. Maybe not, but attempting to ethnically cleanse folk toward where the jobs are is …? KO that as well.

It would be possible for our great political followers to mandate all public service (inc TDs) starting salaries will be Min Wage – and no increments. Likely? All public service pensions are MW also. Damn the Legal Contracturals, the Dail could legislate those away. OK, KO that one as well.

Gov says IT will decide things – in The Public Interest! So, Jack and the lads can take a hike; ditto Horan, and the other mouthpieces for those Special Interest Groups; IFA, consultants, IBEC, etc. etc. who are ONLY looking after their member’s interests. Give me a break here.

Tell people the awful truth. The growth paradigm is over. High un-employments are here: the ‘good’ jobs are gone – to Chindia – where the unfortunate workers are virtual slaves, on very min wages and enjoy a septic environment to boot. Western developed economies are headed for a very nasty downturn, so the emigration shills will be silenced as the employment situation deteriorates in those English speaking countries where some of our young people can go.

This is the awful prospect. Less productive jobs, more scivvy type service jobs which pay the Min Wage – which, when netted out will be almost subsistence level. This will have a real bad impact on tax revenues and the revenues to finance, insurance and property based companies. Food and energy will be a major household expense. If a third – or more, of your household income goes on these two, then what? It will take a decade to get there, and we will. Just do not expect our political clowns to pay attention. Actually they will, but when its too late and they will then bleat, “No one saw this coming! And anyway, its all the fault of THOSE people in Bruxelles. We can do nothing!”.

Buy a farm, or make friends with folk who already have one. Even an allotment will suffice. And, if you can also manage to live near a source of clean water with live fish in it – better again.

Coffee time!


Unemployment is a growing effect of inequality it would appear. I watched the film ‘The Help’ last night – very interesting how employment (or lack of) was used as a threat/weapon. Saw this interesting story related to it this morning.


As globalisation takes further hold, combined with the lack of availability of the ‘American Dream’ to increasing numbers (and whatever we want to call its equivalent in Europe) as wealth moves further and further up the pyramid, unemployment will get worse I guess and the kind of jobs coming in to replace skilled work may well just be the ‘Help’ kind of jobs serving those with the power and the money. This kind of thing leads to revolution and is very short-sighted of TPTB.


I composed a reply to you and it seems to have been ‘disappeared’. I attempted to retrieve it, but to no avail. Below is the telegraph version.

The 20,000 is straight out of head.

Have small farm in forestry (7H). 300m road (very badly chewed up by v-large farm vehicles). Need to cut, and maintain surface water run-off channels. I need 6 No. of same; .6m wide x 3m x approx 1m deep at diatal end. Takes me about 1 hr with pick and spade. Ground is like half- congealed concrete. Need to revisit these on regular basis – it rains a lot in Midlands. The trees need caring. So also my three raised beds (experiment for growing vegs).

Used that well known PR dodge: ‘Fallacy of Composition’ to come up with the number.


ps: Any of you Moderator Critters awake yet? How’s about:

1. A spell chequer (sic)
2. A Preview facility?


The young Irish people now are well educated and Ireland is seen from abroad as an excellent supplier of Human Resources.
So its a shame that the skills of these people, wheter they are qualified as an Engineer or a philosipher cannot be accomated into a job serving society.
Irelands ratio of debt to GDP was 40% in 2007 before the banks took down the country. Now there is little fiscal spending to employ them with debt well over 100% and the country in an IMF/ECB program.
The ECB simly doesn’t care about unemployment. It cares about inflation and German, French, Spanish and Italian bankers.
From the point of view of unemployment Ireland is better off taking a break from the Euro and pegging its currency to its trading partners like Sweden.

There are other reforms that can boost employment in Ireland. Of the top of my head.
1. Make commericial and residential rents more affordable. We are still living in a real estate market dominated by overpricing due to collusion and price fixing. The upwardly only rent review is legalised price-fixing.
2. Allow other banks to enter the Irish market more easily. Streamline Irelands paperwork, reporting accounting etc, everything a bank needs to do to set up here. Take a policy of actively encouraging foreign competition in the banking market. Make it easier to start a bank or credit union.
The challenge is confronting the real estate and banking lobbies. Hopefully the IMF can help with this.

@ Eureka

I apologise for the somewhat ‘snappy’ reply. I was dumbfounded when my original piece was Neutrinoed. Please feel free to come back at me if my explanation is completely ‘off-the-wall’ – which it likely is!

@PR Guy: I read that piece. Only thing that caught my fancy was the bits about the Pol Sci guys (and gals – though they publish less frequently. I wonder why?) Got me thinking about comparison between US Inc. and IRL Inc.

Neither of us had the ‘traditional’ Left-Right (socialist-capitalist) political cleavage which occurred post WW1 in NW europe. Here in IRL, we had a Treaty – No-treaty cleavage (1 or 0 in political terms). Naught in-between. Still nothing. Sci Pol people think our Labour is – slightly left of centre! Nope. “We are all right-of-centre now!”

The other piece of Pol Sci concerns the nature of political parties that emerge from such a mono-dimensional cleavage: they are (in polite Pol Sci speak), “Office Seekers”, not “Policy Seekers”. We had a short-life span of the latter: Greens – rem them?.

If you crank up “Office Seekers” to its appropriate, contemporary US and IRL versions, you get “Power Rangers” – on steroids! This explains why we have no social policies, rather we have pecuniary policies. Former is about folk, the latter is about power. Irish labour party? Sucking off the colostrum lactating tit of power!



If 20,000 units of Irish labour (that’s a crass label, by the way) are supplied and Qd lags, the Market P goes whichaway?

The NW furriners no care about un-employment? Give it time Chris. Give it time.

We need social (folk-based) policies now, not pecuniary (neo-economic) policies. We have a rather patchy history of proactive social policy making in this country. Keeping up with western european social norms seems more like the way our pols reacted, and a close watch on that other island – for inspiration, you understand.


@ Chris,

“From the point of view of unemployment Ireland is better off taking a break from the Euro and pegging its currency to its trading partners like Sweden.”

You’re spot on to place this as a monetary issue. How can we effectively tackle our unemployment problem with a declining money supply and a monetary authority that insists on austerity uber alles. I would however caution about advocating a return to parity with sterling. Maybe as a stabilising force for a short period, but the state needs to take responsibility for it’s own currency. It’s not beyond our wits.

@ Liam Delaney,

I tried watching your presentation, but unfortunately I have, even by the standards of this country, an appalling broadband link. The video kept stopping and starting, so I let it go. I’ll try watch it again. Thanks for taking up this issue though. I believe it’s vitally important that the spotlight is kept on unemployment. Personal experience has shown me the corrosive effects it can have on family life. I’m utterly appalled that we have a political party in power whose raison d’etre is Labour and is putting up with this situation.

In terms of current government response, as said in talk, main belief seems to be that there is no point in trying short-term employment measures. Mostly agree with view that only way to have a sustainable jobs environment is with resolution of fiscal and banking problems. But agree that policy response has been poor and ignores the long-run effects of employment durations greater than a year. There have been various weak attempts to set up employment commissions etc,. that have come to little.

Such response as is happening in Ireland includes: reduction of welfare payments to young jobseekers to reduce replacements rates at that end; the introduction of various work placement programmes, the recent and most useful being Jobbridge; the abolition of FAS and replacement with SOLAS; the merging of job assistance and welfare payment functions; the introduction of back-to-education initiatives. These are all potentially useful things to do, but are not being designed or evaluated seriously for the most part.

Potential responses include: moving some of the existing capital spend to more shovel-ready labour intensive programmes such as repairs; reduction of employer PRSI on new hires subject to not shedding other workers; hiring of junior roles in public sector such as teaching assistants; raising of the school leaving age, though this would clearly need a lot of thought.

Having this issue more on the agenda of EU leaders is also vital. I just cant fathom why rates of youth unemployment as high as 46 per cent in countries like Spain isn’t raising more alarm bells than it is. Whole areas of Europe where young people have stopped even aspiring to get a job.

In terms of a good format to make sure economics issues are discussed more seriously and in more depth, the following video is worth looking at. A chair mediates between three Scandinavian economists and Milton Friedman during a debate in 1984. You might recognise the name of one of the economists, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who years later was the Iceland president who vetoed the Iceland parliaments decision to pay the debts of private Iceland banks. The structure and level is pretty much perfect in my view.

Great to see some focus on this issue, for the economic and psychological reasons outlined it has to be the first priority of government.

I’ve spent a lot of time in China and beyond the image of the Foxconn tower sweatshop knocking out iPods, people here really do work very hard in a lot of high skilled graduate jobs for a lot less that is common in Europe. It’s not hard to see why jobs are moving here.

I found the talk really informative but is the issue not fundamentally one of the cost of labour in an international market? And the challenge how to square this with us not adopting a system as unequal and lacking in safety nets at those of competing nations?

Because the basic infrastructure and education practices are everywhere now.

“I just cant fathom why rates of youth unemployment as high as 46 per cent in countries like Spain isn’t raising more alarm bells than it is. ”

I heard from a Swiss acquaintance the other day that it’s a great time to get a Spanish au pair because they are desperate for any klind of work . What an appalling state of affairs.

As a first step I’d love to see a detailed human capital survey of the unemployed(including those opting not to participate in the workforce)

Data for all factors:
years experience per NACE code
educational achievements

This profile could then be a public good that would not only inform public policy, but also be of use to prospective employers

Thanks Darren. Take your point on competitiveness. Has been thrashed out here a good bit. One thing to keep in mind is to see cost-competitiveness across its broad dimensions including energy, property etc,.

@ Brian Woods Snr
No offence taken at all Brian.
I’m not sure about the hypothesis and if I understand it correctly.
There are jobs to be done. And maybe these are the kinds of things that people need to start looking at.
I’m not sure there is a huge difference in doing a job that “you have to do to get dole” and just being on the dole. In order to be psychologically satisfying it seems that a job must be something you apply for, get paid for and can get promoted from. Digging roads in the midlands would have to be made attractive from these points of view.
One of the things I’ve wondered about is our attitude to immigration in this country. Immigrants have been the engine for economic growth in many countries around the world. They come in at various levels to the work force but they are motivated by a drive to succeed that is often lacking in the native born population. Why are we so restrictive when it comes to immigration? We have a big fear that immigrants will abuse our social welfare system so why not offer a unsupported immigration scheme where somebody can come into the country and not expect any state support. They work for a few years and if they keep a clean sheet criminally they can be entitled to apply for citizenship after a few years. They could work at any job they chose and would be entitled to minimum wage etc. We could set a ceiling on it. Applicants would have to apply for it like they were applying for a job with things like level of English, education and previous achievements taken into account.
Ireland is an incredibly attractive place for people to come and live. Immigration might not increase unemployment but decrease it

As it stands at the moment you are not entitled to any social welfare payments without sufficient stamps about one year PRSI in the last two years and resident in the country, as many returning Irish immigrants were surprised to find out! So much of your idea is already in place although the time frame for residency could be extended but you must remember this will affect Irish as well.
As for a maximum wage this could be bad as you could get Chinese engineers coming over under a maximum wage and displacing Irish workers.

sorry, re-read your post I think your “ceiling” was on numbers and not on wages, right?

@ Eureka: Thanks for that.

My hypothesis is that the Long-term Trend of Economic Growth, is under severe stress: it is approching a maximum and will (within a decade?) inflect over, then decline permanently.

I theorise that the influx of millions of ‘labour units’ (ghastly term!) into the global labour market, since 1970, has fundamentely altered a particular segment of the Labour Market. It (the influx) has caused wages in some localized labour markets to either stall, or decline. Recent evidence from US shows an almost 4 decade decline in median wage. There are additional reasons for this. It is deeply worrrying.

Clearly there is no single, global labour market: just not possible. However, there are many ‘local’ labour markets. Since the 1970s there has been an increasing inter-continental movement of both capital and capital goods: almost complete freedom to move to any location ‘they’ chose. Clearly neither capital nor capital goods possess anthropromorphic attributes, but us humans are very inventive and resourceful. The nett effect is that we may have established a global labour market in some types of low-wage employments in manufactured goods and tradable services. This is a very iffy assertion, and I am making some heroic Miltonian assumptions! I am leaving out the issue of immigration from developing countries to developed ones, and intra-EU labour movements. These can have significant local effects as well.

In Ireland we have, for some types of employments, a non-mobile labour market (farming and agri labour work is the example I chose). But you get the general idea. Can you have a competitive labour market in farming in Ireland? What is the limit of productive capacity of an individual, manual labourer wielding a pick and spade? Large-scale agri work will still need mechanization, but there are other smaller-scale employments where manual effort is more economic. I hesitate to claim its more ‘sociable’ or ‘worthy’ or ‘fullfilling’. But it is work that must be done if we are to maintain a viable, national feeding programme.

How do you ‘encourage’ persons to engage in backbreaking work, with zero promotion? Donno. Maybe we have to dis-incentivize the others!

Liam: Watched those MF vids. Funniest thing since I saw Grocho in ‘Night at the Opera’. The man was a brilliant genius – a great showman, a veritable Tiger Mark IV. When he was spouting on about the ‘beautiful General Equilibrium System’ he looked as if he was about to explode laughing at the utter stupidity of it. How someone failed to put an armour piercing round through his vunerable rear-end, I’ll never know. ‘Free’ is an awfully emotive term. Sub in unfettered, (Mill ?) now its not so funny! Some folk have some explaining to do.

My guess is, that if you ran some of those hysterical vids to the undergrads, they’d attend in droves! You could splice in a few Groucho clips. The irony would be beautiful.


@ Liam Delaney

Any chance of your your top 5 practical suggestions for creating employment in this state? Not an academic paper on who who is to blame or the psychology of unemployment, just how we are going to create jobs. Please not the usual, we need to create the right environment or we need to reform the Dail because we know all that.

(i) Get EU leaders and ECB to get more employment focus rather than inflation focus.

(ii) In Irish case, get a better deal and put anything gained into employment stimulus

(Iii) Competitiveness as argued a lot here

(Iv) Need emergency measures for now including increasing labour-intensivity of capital programme, internships, perhaps raising schoolleaving age, hiring junior public sector posts, reducing employer prsi subject to hiring criteria,

(v) Totally reform culture of design and evaluation of labour and welfare policy. Begin with Mirlees-type review. Make clock tick in terms of recommendations being implemented. Some evidence that imf are forcing an evaluation culture to emerge but needs to be speeded up.

@Liam Delaney

re Reducing employer prsi subject to hiring criteria.

Having worked in industry all my life, I have rarely if ever seen a reduced PRSI or small employer related tax influence additional hiring.
The decision to hire is much more off the hoof, reactive and immediate in all but very large companies. It is invariably responsive to demand and not to small cost of employment changes.

@ Joseph, Liam, etc

As it happens I’m friendly with Gerard McNaughton, owner of the excellent ‘Tilestyle’.

I’ve sent him the following question. I’ll let you know if he gets back.

“Hi Gerard,

“I’m following a debate between some economists. Here’s a question for you as owner of Tilestyle.

“What actual pragmatic steps – if any – could the government take that would help businesses like yours reduce unemployment.

“Would reducing emploer PRSI, subject to hiring criterea be any use to you?

“All the best,


@ Dr Delaney,

I fired up the video clip and got to the phrase:

“the economy matters to the extent that people have jobs and have got…a good standard of living, well-being.”

Then I just had to stop, because I fundamentally disagree with this basic premise.

In this phrase, you place the having of jobs BEFORE the having of a good standard of living.

This is anathema to an understanding of an economy which derives from consumption utility.

Work is a means, not an end to itself,
People work to get money, put food of the shelves.

So the phrase should read:

“The economy matters to the extent that we can guarantee a good standard of living to people, while minimising the amount of hard work they have to perform to maintain that standard of living.”

Work is hard, back-breaking, stress inducing. My vision of progress is less employment, not more employment. But without losing productivity.

In an ideal world, we would have robots doing it all for us while we all sat around and played “Zelda: Twilight Princess” on our Wiis

And this is where alot of interventionists like you go wrong.

If it were 1900 and you were centrally planning the economy, would you allow cars to be invented, knowing how much it would cost in terms of employment for farriers, stableboys, saddlers, knackers etc. ?

What about mechanical plows and combine harvesters?

Samuel Brittan in the FT last week said that unit labour costs in Irish manufacturing had fallen by 30% since 2006. What more is required competitiveness wise ?

@ Liam Delaney

Do you think the education system and specifically the quality of education provided to economically weaker students is also relevant?

It seems to me as though education in Ireland is still very class driven. Great if your parents are interested. What would be the correlation between family income decile and youth unemployment?

I remember school in the 80s and kids from the poor families being ridiculed if they fell behind. However the doctor’s kids never were, even though one of them was very weak in maths.

I’m not particularly interventionist and some of my other outings on this blog have been railing against central planning in education. You should surely distinguish between the type of measures I am talking here and the idea of central planning per se. Regardless of whether anything happens on unemployment policy, we are already intervening but in a way that is creating unemployment. In the talk, I mostly talk about emergency stablisation rather than long-run job creation. Most of the things I am talking about including things like reducing employer prsi, competitiveness, negotiating better terms in bailout etc., are not interventionist. Of the interventionist policies such as internships, moving to repair-type projects etc,. even these are not particularly interventionist. Not going to pick up too much on the point about work versus consumption. I wasn’t making a very philosophical statement. With current state of technology and social development the way most people consume is by working. I am certainly not an advocate of suppressing technologies that would be labour-saving devices.

@seafoid I think it commonly accepted now that the construction bubble masked problems in the wider education system. The OECD document I linked to contains material by Orla Doyle in the Geary Institute about early intervention etc., Worth looking at that stream of research in terms of long-run effects. I dont know what the correlation between unemployment and family background is at present. I will see if I can find out. Given the much higher rate of unemployment among people with lower education and given the very high correlation between parental and child education attainment in Ireland then its likely to be high.


@Dr Delaney,

I do not know you personally so I cannot comment on how interventionist you are or are not beyond what I have heard you say.

On the blog linked to the video, you express interest in the Georgia Works program, giving a link to a PBS tv clip that touts its merits.

Georgia Works is really an excellent example of a stupid employment programme designed to make a small number of policymakers look good and shuffle tax money around inefficiently.

The programme boasts the GW participants were “only” unemployed for 90 days, which is about 12 weeks. True, this is well below the average, but it is just about at the average for the age cohort from which most participants are likely to have come . Of course, we can’t know for sure, because the data all come from the Georgia Department of Labor, which has no interest in full disclosure.

to get a sense of just how bad the assessment of the Program is, look at the DoL’s report on GW:


So at first glance it sure looks like the Georgia taxpayer is paying for young people to do training courses they would be doing anyway, to get the same jobs they would get anyway, with a deadweight loss clogging up some air-conditioned offices in the Atlanta state house.

And now Obama wants to take this federal?

@LWE One of the commentors mentioned Georgia Works. I provided a link to it. I do not know if it has proven to be effective. The PBS documentary gives a lot of pros at the start and is largely negative at the end. I wasn’t advocating it, merely doing the courtesy to the person of linking to their suggestion. Any such programme should be time-limited and evaluated properly with respect to matched cohorts.

@LHE Thanks for linking to the report. Will read. Any of these programmes should be evaluated. If they dont work they should be scrapped. One of the main points of my talk.

@No problem, Dr Delaney

thanks for broaching this issue.

P.S. LWE is Ludwig Wilhelm Edler, my evil twin brother who went Keynesian in the 30s. 🙂

“If they dont work they should be scrapped”


There was some praise from the OECD for the Government’s jobs initiative yesterday, with Mr Lenain describing efforts to regain control of the public finances as “remarkable”.
However, he was critical of State training programmes, saying bluntly that the Government should stop spending money on training people for the construction sector.

Your age is…?

Old enough to be bitter about how the world has turned out, but still young enough to be disappointed by it.

Very useful thread.

Might be worth mentioning that, to the best of my knowledge, a comprehensive institutional study of the Irish skill-formation system, and its links to structure of industry, education system, industrial relations system, disjointed government departments, and class based nature of the political system – remains to be written.

There are pieces of useful research from a few disciplines – but no inter-disciplinary group with the relevant tools (orthodox and heterodox) and resources has emerged to provide the type of in-depth exploration and synthesis required.

Suggestions welcome …


“to get a sense of just how bad the assessment of the Program is, look at the DoL’s report on GW:


So at first glance it sure looks like the Georgia taxpayer is paying for young people to do training courses they would be doing anyway, to get the same jobs they would get anyway, with a deadweight loss clogging up some air-conditioned offices in the Atlanta state house.”

It was myself who recommended that Dr. Delaney that a look at Georgia Works, in the context of assessing JobBridge. I really don’t see how that report is consistent with your comments.

For example, this article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/26/georgia-works-jobs-program_n_937771.html points to the program marginally boosting the employment prospects of trainees, without taking into account the fact that these programs are generally populated by younger workers who have worse employment prospects.

I think it’s fair to say that we have different views on intervention as a whole, but the scheme is not the disaster that you make it sound. Though I do admit it seems to have weakened over time.

In comparison to JobBridge, I like the program: http://irisheconthoughts.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/unemployment-in-ireland-georgia-work-%E2%80%93-will-jobbridge/

This is well worth a read

Joe Dunne – Citizenship and Education: a Crisis of the Republic? (2002), in P. Kirby, M. Cronin and L. Gibbons eds. Reinventing Ireland: Culture, Society and the Global Economy. London: Polity Press.


Good stuff. Not too sure though about your top 2 ‘smart’ people – former funneling capital from irish ‘high net worth indivs’ to switzerland and the latter advising a late finance minister to guarantee all oirish banks then breaching the norm of professional confidentiality on a client in some distress.

On ‘deadweight’ – O’Connell & Lyons ESRI good few yrs ago and Helena Lenihan UL might be worth checking out …. or ask any well known heterodox or institutional economist in any Irish university …. if you can find one!

@David O’Donnell

List is alphabetical by first name 🙂 Whatever of his 9-5 activities, CG’s data analysis is always worth reading. I’ll happily admit to enjoying David McWilliams’ writing.

Thanks for the positive feedback Liam & David.

Hi folks.. thanks again to Liam for taking the time, all speakers on Irishdebate volunteer their time – as do I on Irishdebate. We have other formats e.g. http://irishdebate.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/has-ireland-lost-its-mojo-the-video/ but this is much more time consuming and in some ways technically challenging. Also great cost 🙁 but we could certainly gather a number of people to do this if interest is there. Also, anyone attending can in fact *speak* to the host…

Reply from Gerard McNaughton from Tilestyle to question above:

“Yes it would help as part of a stimulus to employ new personnel , also for us like many retailers are still paying massive rents on premises signed for in 2007 with upward only rent reviews , it can kill a well run retail business.”


Well done on that.
It is clear that he sees rents as being a far bigger problem to his business and therefore to employment prospects that small changes in payroll taxes.

Would definitely like to see more analysis of the role of rents in firm survival and employment for Ireland. Paul Hunt above has been talking a lot here about energy costs which are clearly also in the competitiveness section.

Another aspect of unemployment is workers reluctance to accept lower wages from previous ones to get back in. The literature generally slows that reservation wages are slow to adjust for reasons not fully understood.

A number of people have asked about underemployment and, in particular, people who have had their working week reduced. Will post on this soon.

Also, a few people mentioned discouraged workers and masked unemployment, whereby ineffective training programmes are used to massage the employment numbers. Will post a few things on this thread.

@Joe I think it would be really useful at some stage to have a multicontributor session. Thanks for setting these up.

“In relation to why people, particularly those in long term unemployment, do not continue to look for employment, the answer is simple and obvious. It is absolutely necessary for the preservation of self confidence to avoid continuous rejection. This is as true for a 45 year old unemployed man as it is for 6 year old child”

This sums it up for me as posted by Joseph Ryan. I know several eminently qualified people – by experience and education – who have been unemployed for months and have received numerous job application rejections.

@ DoD

“Might be worth mentioning that, to the best of my knowledge, a comprehensive institutional study of the Irish skill-formation system, and its links to structure of industry, education system, industrial relations system, disjointed government departments, and class based nature of the political system – remains to be written. ”

how about this


We must consider institutional fragmentation and the enclosure of the intellectual commons. Medical schools are isolated from agricultural schools, usually the former in large cities and the latter in rural areas. Departmental barriers help freeze the false dichotomies that disrupt our understanding of the world: social/biological, physiological/psychological, genetic/environmental, quantitative/qualitative, individual/social, random/deterministic, whereas the new creative approaches should be sought in their zones of interpenetration. Then the rules for recognition, academic promotion, standards for funding under discrete “programs,” time limits for degrees, definitions of the domains of journals, all conspire to reinforce the boundaries between fragments. The hierarchical arrangement of the disciplines promotes the reductionism that satisfies the economic needs of the corporations. A clarification is needed here: there is nothing wrong with reduction as a research tactic, the search for the internal parts of something, its smallest units. What is wrong is reductionism, the illusions that the smallest parts are in some way more fundamental, that once we know what something is made of, we understand it, that oxidation is more real than exploitation.

Knowledge is the product of a knowledge industry that is owned. Its owners establish the boundaries of the legitimate, determine the rules for who is recruited, who is excluded, the research agenda, the domain of acceptable theories, and provide the vocabulary for dismissing inconvenient ideas as “far out,” “not mainstream,” “unproven,” “ideological,” or other indications of taboo. They create the art of administration: the inventing of excuses to justify decisions taken for other reasons, and the conviction that this is being practical, realistic, etc.

Science prides itself on self-correcting mechanisms to catch error, which is supposed to create objectivity even when individuals may be fallible. We have become quite sophisticated about preventing idiosyncratic errors. We now know that we should wash our glassware, that experiments need controls for comparison, that the experimenters’ expectations can influence the outcome of an experiment, and so we have invented blind and double-blind designs. Work might be repeated in another lab. Peer review can protect journals from careless mistakes. We can filter out random results by statistical tests, and we never, never divide by zero. These procedures work fairly well. But they are completely useless against the shared biases of the whole scientific community, the assumptions and constraints that have become part of the common sense of our colleagues, our teachers, our funders.

The intellectual structure of our programs is still caught in the philosophy of seventeenth century reductionism that grew up with capitalism in Euro-North America.


Yes – views on science, broadly defined (and I don’t really believe in essentialist definitions of anything), very much in tune with my own …. he writes like a most interesting ‘third generation subversive’ but probably wouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of a professorship around here. Yet to address serious problems or issues – interdisciplinarity is essential – the ‘truth’ as he puts it ‘is in the whole’ and the institutional mix of inter-connections in time and place. I reject solely reductionist or solely determinist analyses (emphasis on solely; as parts of larger pictures they have their used) and consider them dangerous if not supported by context and broader institutional analyses (no shortage of failure examples) – and where ‘humans’ are involved then any plausible analysis demands inclusion of both the lifeworlds of the human (what Liam Delaney would prob refer to as behavioural or how humans perceive things) and the broader system or institutional influences (call it structure) – in simple terms lifeworld and system (and I’ve waded through a fair bit of Habermas and American Pragmatism in my own real time); agency and structure to be analytically deconstructed and then reconstructed – not simply conflated – realism; a plausible ontology of ‘the world’ in other words and a form of epistemological realism. Embrace complexity, get lost in it, sense it, and join with a few colleagues on a purposeful stroll through it and discourse along the way –

Wonder what response I would get were I to submit this to evaluators of a study of the skill-formation system? I already know the response from certain so-called 5* peer-reviewed journals. Great to see Monthly Review, and some of its contributing intellects, make a few guest appearances on this blog. Looks like they are not all eejits in Harvard 😆

If supply increases and demand lags prices of goods should drop. If they don’t it is indicative of collusion or price-fixing. The Irish property market in the mid 2000’s is such an example with hundreds of thousands of empty properties and prices increasing at least 10% a year.
Wages dont follow this example as they are sticky due to collective bargaining and unions.
Ways Germany made their economies more ‘competitive’ over the last decade –
1. Eroding the collective bargaining rights for perhiperal workers in mainly the service economy (fixed term, temporary, marginal workers). Germany has no minimum wage and the highest percentage of ‘low paid workers’ after the U.S.
“employers and unions jointly preferred the deregulation of the peripheral labour market over the deregulation/liberalization of employment protection for the core workforce. More employment and more activity are combined with low pay and insecure employment..has therefore not solved the structural problems on the German labour market. ” http://www2.lse.ac.uk/europeanInstitute/events/2010-11/articles/ELSIGermany.pdf
2. Plant‐level agreements German firms had negotiated with their core workforce since the late 1980s. For example this has resulted in core-employees agreeing to reduce their hours and lower wages in return for committments of no lay offs. The fact the companies can’t lay off core employees has forced them to rebuild capacity quickly after the downturn.

This is what is being prescribed for Ireland. It should be looked at closely as German Headline unemployment figures do not tell the whole story.

On the point of German Vs Irish unemployment and the crisis, Germany was able to unload a 50Billion stimulus to their economy in 2009. Helped of course by Ireland bankrupting themselves to save German banks.

Signapores currency regime would be suitable for Ireland, a small open economy with a large financial sector. It lets its rate flucuate around the value of a basket of other currecies, which for Ireland would be the Euro, Dollar, Sterling etc. The amount of currencies in the basket are weighted, it could be according to trade.
“This policy of exchange rate targeting revolves around three components: a basket, a fluctuation bandwidth and currency drift. By speculating on these different components, the Montetary Authority of Singapore can encourage the exchange rate to appreciate when inflationary pressure is intense, or depreciate in the opposite case (as in 2009). The flexibility of this exchange rate target (whether it fluctuates within the bandwidth or the bandwidth itself shifts) implies that the MAS is looking to find a compromise between the value of its currency and how it manages domestic liquidity.

Has anyone seen any data that would indicate a move in Ireland towards the Japanese model where an increasing number of workers are on contract (renewable, temporary) rather than the kind of stable permanent employment agreements we are used to seeing (if having notice of 1 month can be regarded as ‘stable/permanent’ that is)?

Also, are there any figures out there for the trend in use of unpaid interns in Ireland over the past 2-3 years?

I hear plenty of anecdotal evidence for both but can never seem to find any hard data.

@PR Guy

Does own household experience count as data?
If so, I have loads of data!

You should also refer to Seamus Coffey analyis on unemployment.
The significant gap between the live register figures ~430,000 and CSO employment ~304,000 is presumed to be made up of people of approx 80,000 on short/part time + others.

Hard data will be hard to come by. Government focus is usually to hide the numbers in ‘interns, job experience, early retirement etc.

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